That’s the advice offered by local gun shop owners to hunters needing to stock up on ammunition for the upcoming rifle deer season.
Heightened demand for handgun ammunition and loads used for recreational shooting forced manufacturers to shift their focus from producing hunting loads to calibers such as 9mm, .380 and .45. The move has created a shortfall with several calibers popular among deer hunters, including 30-06, .270, .308 and .243.
“When they were supposed to be stockpiling hunting ammo, they were too busy making handgun ammo,” said Joe Lasecki, owner of Nimrod Haven Sporting Goods in Hanover Township. “We’re not going to see the end of this until the middle of next year.”
Still, it doesn’t mean the popular hunting rounds are impossible to find … yet.
Lasecki said he is stocked with 30-06, .270, .308, .300, .35 and 30-30 ammunition for the upcoming hunting season. Those seeking .243 cartridges in a specific weight might be out of luck, however.
“That caliber has been an issue since January. There’s lots of 80-grain but no 100-grain, which is what a lot of hunters prefer,” Lasecki said.
Norm Gavlick, owner of Gun Hippo in Kingston, said he has been getting shipments of the common hunting calibers, but they don’t last long after they arrive.
In order to keep up with the demand for hunting ammunition, Gavlick said he is on the phone several times a day with manufacturers and sales representatives.
“We’re constantly checking on the availability. If we see something that our customers want, we jump on it,” Gavlick said. “The distributors don’t have any inventory accumulating because everything they have goes right out.”
Gavlick said that while there may be cartridges available in the common hunting calibers, specific weights and types might not be available. In that case, he said, hunters may have to make do with whatever is close enough to what they shoot.
“If you’re looking for .308, 150-grain and the shop only has 160-grain, I wouldn’t hold off. It’s not going to get any better,” Gavlick said.
Ed Piestrak, owner of Piestrak’s Gun Shop in Nanticoke, agreed that while the ammunition for popular hunting calibers may be available, some of the grains might be hard to get.
“Most people want a particular brand and weight, and that could be a problem,” he said.
The reason for the shortage, according to Piestrak, is concerns over gun control have sparked a buying spree on guns and ammunition. As a result, manufacturers shifted to producing ammunition for handguns and neglected rifles, Piestrak said.
Now with deer season on the horizon, the manufacturers are late switching back to production of hunting ammunition.
“We were hoping it would get straightened out by now,” Piestrak said. “A lot of people were hoarding ammunition, but that will subside at some point.”
Some hunters expected a shortfall of ammunition this fall, according to Lasecki, who said he has been selling hunting ammunition all summer. Those sales led Lasecki to plan ahead as well.
“While everybody was worried about ammo for the AR-15s, I was ordering the hunting ammo early,” he said. “You have to look six months ahead when it comes to ammo anymore.”
That’s why Lasecki is predicting another shortage — this one with with handgun rounds such as 9mm, .380 and .45.
“Now they’re going to switch to producing hunting ammunition, and the other stuff will see shortages,” he said.
The high demand and shortages of supply for some calibers are also resulting in an increase in prices. The cost for most ammunition has increased compared to what it was a year ago.
One of the calibers hit especially hard with shortages and price increases is the .22. Gavlick said a year ago a brick of .22 rounds cost between $17 and $25. Today, one would be lucky to find a brick of 500 rounds for less than $50.
Piestrak said .22 ammunition is very hard to get as well, because the demand for high-end, high-velocity rounds has increased.
That means the standard .22 shells aren’t being produced in the quantity that they had been.
“The machines are running 24 hours a day making .22 ammo, but they’re producing the high-end stuff,” Piestrak said.